Sandymount Lime Kilns

Sandymount Road, Sandymount

  • Sandymount Lime Kilns, Otago Peninsula. CC BY-SA 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange, Bochum, Germany. Date: 11/09/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed - Review Initiated List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 377 Date Entered 2nd April 2004 Date of Effect 2nd April 2004


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the two lime kilns and land on which they are located on part RTs OT14B/1181 and OT271/111 but does not specifically include the wider recorded archaeological sites associated with the kilns.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 1 DP 22451 (RT OT14B/1181) and Sec 54 Blk III Otago Peninsula District (RT OT271/111)


Lime burning was an early industry supplying the lime for mortar in brick and masonry construction and as a forerunner of Portland cement. Early lime kilns are still found in Otago and Canterbury (Kakahu Lime Kilns - South Canterbury, and Makareao Lime Kilns, Otago, are both registered as Category I Historic Places). Lime kilns declined in use after the discovery of good limestone and marl deposits led to the manufacture of Portland cement after 1884). The earliest lime kilns in New Zealand were probably erected in Nelson in the early 1840s. The earliest in Otago were erected after 1849 at Kaikorai and Caversham, although the product was poor. At Sandymount the lime burning industry began in the 1860s. The kilns under consideration in this report were operating by the mid-late 1860s. According to Geoffrey Thornton, James Mcdonald, a Scottish stonemason, built a lime kiln in the vicinity in 1865. Lime was extracted from a hill in the area and fired in these kilns. The Milburn Lime and Cement Company took over these kilns after Mcdonald had joined the enterprise. The kilns continued to operate, although on a lesser extent as the company developed its resources elsewhere.

The limestone on the Otago Peninsula extends from Seal Point across the Harbour to Dowling Bay on the other side. The dyke is approximately 800 metres wide and around 20 metres thick. Before lime industry was established lime was procured by burning shells from the Lower Harbour with timber on the shore. Small kilns were constructed in Portobello, but not on a commercial scale. A number of people were engaged in lime burning on the Peninsula although the scale of the work is difficult to determine.

By the turn of the century kiln use had declined further as it was more economic to extract lime from Milburn, south of Dunedin, which had the advantage of being near a railway line, and also as the company developed its North Otago resources.

Land title information indicates that the section 54 was owned by James McDonald in the 1870s and 1880s until he had financial trouble and the title was assigned to the Milburn Lime Company as official assignee in October 1888 (Deed Index M587). Title was issued for section 54 Block III Otago Peninsula District to The Milburn Lime and Cement Company Limited in December 1935 (OT271/111).

Section 5 was owned by Walter Riddell who leased land to McDonald in February 1870. McDonald leased the land into the late 1890s. In 1909 part of section 5 was leased to the Taieri and Peninsula Milk Supply Company Ltd, together with the water use right over a spring on the property. On John Riddell's death in 1946 the land passed to Sandymount farmer Walter Robert John Riddell (OT71/3). On his death in October 1953 the land passed to another Walter Riddell as administrator. In 1955 the land was transferred to Otokia farmers Thomas and Edward Harwood (OT366/235). When Thomas Harwood died in early 1978 his share passed to Ronald Stewart (Sandymount farmer) and Dunedin solicitor William Armitage as executors. After another further transfer the land was acquired by The Proprietors of the Akapatiki "A" Block. In 1992 the land was subdivided and the land taken over by its present owners.

In 1976 New Zealand Cement Holdings gifted the lower lime kiln, together with the adjacent limestone quarry to the Otago Peninsula Trust (OT271/111). Restoration work in the late 1970s was supported by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The Dunedin City Council was also keen to encourage interpretation and public access to these significant historic sites.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Mcdonald's lime kilns on the Otago Peninsula are considered to be two of the oldest surviving kilns in New Zealand and as such have outstanding architectural, historical, and technological significance. The history of settlement and the early building industry is illustrated through the physical resources which provided the basic infrastructure for the population, and a focus for local development. Despite the widespread use of lime in the building industry in the last forty years of the nineteenth century there are very few surviving examples of early kilns.

The tapered stone circular kiln is a rare architectural type.

They represent an important part of the building technologies of the nineteenth century, and are fine examples of the stonemason's craft.

The kilns reflect an important element of New Zealand's industrial history. These are the earliest surviving examples of lime kilns, an activity vital to the nineteenth century building industry, and have the potential to provide knowledge about the history of the building industry and technologies of the nineteenth century. The high community value is shown by the gifting of one the kilns to a community Trust, and the community-based restoration of one the kilns in the 1970s. It is promoted as a tourist attraction on the Otago Peninsula, representing the early industries of that area. The kilns are a fine example of stonemasonry with their tapered circular stonework. The kilns are important to the identification of rare historic places because they are thought to the earliest surviving lime kilns in New Zealand.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The traditional method for bonding masonry and brickwork consisted of a mixture of sand and lime mixed with a little water, known as mortar. The lime was prepared by calcining limestone in a kiln to reduce it to a uniform powder state by burning. Two tons of stone were required to produce one ton of lime.

The kiln was built of limestone and was usually a circular put-type with a tunnel entrance at the base for firing and unloading. Loading was done from the top and it was quite common to build the kilns against a hillside to allow for easier tipping of the lime rock.

With the discovery of Portland cement (a mixture of clay and chalk) the continued development of lime burning for building purposes was of diminishing importance by the turn of the century and certainly by the first decade of the twentieth century.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1865 -

1975 - 1980
Restoration project (of kiln on Section 54).

Construction Details

On section 54 the kiln consists of a three section structure built of basalt stone with sandbrick arches to the fireplaces, and girdled with iron hoops. The parapet has two grooves set in it to take a wooden bridge set across from the face of the limestone cliff which has been quarried. This kiln consists of a tapered stone circular tower with arched fireplaces of brick. The tower base has four openings for firing, while on the lower level there is a large tunnel which was used for the removal of the burnt lime and which has elaborately curved flanking abutments and retaining walls of limestone.

On what was section 5 (now Pt Lot 1 DP 22451) the kiln consists of a two section structure. A 2 foot rail runs from the mouth of the kiln to the stone foundations of a loading shed. At the level of the kiln top there is a heavy bedplate for an engine. The floor of the quarry is level with the top of the kiln, to which access can be directly made for filling. There is a two foot rail track to a loading platform.

Public NZAA Number



Completion Date

7th September 2004

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

New Zealand's Industrial Past: Papers presented at a Seminar on Industrial Archaeology in New Zealand, Christchurch 29-30 March 1983

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.